Into Town To Our Hotel
It was too late in the evening to catch the MRT (the underground) into the city so we had to pay a bit extra to catch a shuttle bus. We piled into a van with a few other people and had a crazy ride into the city. The driver was taking the curves like we were in the INDY 500. Jack was not feeling too well by the end of the trip. The ride was worse for him because his seat was facing backwards in the minivan.
We got the driver to take us to a hotel where we had made a prior reservation. It was located in the China town area of Singapore, this is one of the cheaper areas to stay. It was typical of any other China town. It had lots of Chinese eateries and shops.
The hotel only had one night available for us to stay. We would have to look for something else in the morning. This place was called the Travelers Rest stop. It was clean and the staff were friendly enough, but the room was really small, stuffy and hot. It had air conditioning, but it wasn’t doing much at all. Even if we could stay longer we decided we must be able to get something better for around the same price.
Check In Time At The Hotel Is 8pm?????
We ended up staying at a place just around the corner called Hotel 81 Cosy. We stayed for 5 nights, it was clean and modern, and for Singapore $50 was a good price. The Hotel 81 is a chain of hotels with many locations throughout the city. This particular one seemed to have its share of problems during our stay.
We didn’t want to drag our bags all over while we looked for a new hotel. The front desk clerk said no problem we have a room for you but you can’t check in until 6pm. They also let people use the rooms during the day if they are in transit from Singapore airport. He said we could store our bags in a safe place there and then come back at 6pm, so it didn’t seem like a problem.
When we came back with all our bags he changed the story and said that someone had just phoned to keep the room until 8pm. Funny how this happened within 5 minutes. He said we could upgrade to a deluxe room. Seemed like a bait and switch scam to us. We refused the more expensive room and told him we were not pleased with the 8pm check in time. It seemed absurd, considering they wouldn’t offer a discount. They do have a huge sign stating you will be charged should you check out late though.
We were getting ready to take our bags and find another place when suddenly he decides he has a room right away for us, what a surprise! Our room was nice, but the bed had a vinyl covered mattress. Even though the sheet was over it, it made you sweat like crazy.
4Am Wake Up Calls By Drunk Hotel Staff
We are not having much luck with hotels in Singpore at all. Two nights in a row we had people coming back at 4 in the morning to the room next to us. They were making a ton of racket in the hall and playing loud music in their room. We think it was actually hotel staff that were doing it. We understand people party and stuff, but not in the hallway and blaring music out of the room at 4am. This was a bit much. We complained and they offered to change us to a different room for the rest of the stay. Then they informed us it was a deluxe room again and we would have to pay $20 more. We couldn’t believe the crappy service this place was giving. This was not typical of anything else we experienced in Singapore. We said forget it, we would be coming downstairs in the middle of the night to have the problem dealt with if it happened again. It was quiet for the next 2 nights we were there.
Singapore, The Clean, Efficient And Friendly Country
We were amazed with Singapore and its efficiency, organization, cleanliness and level of service and friendliness. Everyone seems to speak English and most speak it very well. The transport system, the MRT is incredible. You could eat off the floors. This is not surprising since you are not allowed any food or drinks. I honestly think if you dropped a piece of garbage in here that an alarm would go off and a S.W.A.T. team would appear to deal with the situation! The MRT is so easy to use. You can get around to almost anywhere within minutes. We couldn’t seem to get lost if we tried.
On more than one occasion we pulled out a map to get our bearings and within minutes someone would approach us to genuinely see if they could help. If the MRT can’t get you to where you’re going, a bus will. You can get a card for the MRT that is also good for the bus. You load it up with money and then scan it as you pass through MRT stations. You also scan it when you enter and exit the buses as well.
You can ask for information or directions from any of the ticket kiosks in the stations. The people that work in them are amazingly knowledgeable about the city. People everywhere seemed to know the answers to all of our questions. We were in a book store looking for a specific book. When they didn’t have it, we asked one of the young employees if he knew of another place we could look. He gave us the name of the bookstore, the street it was on, the building it was in and then drew a map of how to get there. Then he felt bad because he couldn’t remember what floor the store was on in the building!
Rules, Rules And More Rules
Singapore does have a lot of rules that people love to make fun of. They even have t-shirts with the rules and the corresponding fines printed out on them. I don’t think the majority of Singapore’s rules are any outrageous. Most of them are about common sense and respect for other people and the city. They are rules that should be practiced everywhere regardless of whether they are officially policed or not. No jaywalking and no gum chewing are among them. You can get a hefty fine for doing either.
To decrease traffic and congestion in the main core of the city they have put in place a traffic control system. Cars that come into the area have a device in them where the driver has to scan an ATM type card into it. They keep it topped up with money and it is deducted when they go through certain areas.
The Garden City
Singapore is known as the Garden City, it must be one of the worlds greenest countries. There have been over 5 million trees planted in the last two decades, many of them along the main roads. The city is also full of parks and nature areas. Even the downtown area that would normally look like any other concrete city is disguised with beautiful trees. It seems they have not clogged up the area with skyscrapers, lots of space has been left to allow for an open feeling.
Another thing we loved about Singapore was the amount of birds. I guess with that many trees you would have a lot of birds. It is really neat to hear so many of them even right downtown. This was by far one of the most humid places we have been on our trip. Not surprising considering it is almost on the equator. It does have regular rainfall all year round, but July and August are supposed to be the driest months. It is a unique place considering it is a city, a country and an island.
Clark Quay is situated along the Singapore river. It is dotted with old historical buildings that have been converted into restaurants and shopping outlets. You can get pretty much any kind of food you want here. It’s a nice area to go for a walk.
The Esplanade- Theatres on the Bay are located on the waterfront land alongside Marina Bay near the mouth of the Singapore river. They were built to be the center for performing arts for Singapore. They hold international and local musicals, dance, theatre and concerts. The buildings have been given the nickname of “the Durians” due to the fact they resemble the shape of a durian fruit.
Inviting the boats to the harbour area is Singapore’s mascot the Merlion.(half lion half mermaid) He stands tall, facing out into the harbour with a stream of water coming out of his mouth. It is just a short walk from the Durian theatres.
We explored an ethnic neighbourhood located along Serangoon Road called Little India. It was a maze of shops and restaurants. The smell of spice floats through the air and traditional Indian music can be heard throughout the streets. The businesses cater to the locals, not the tourists. This makes it an authentic Indian area to experience.
There are many mosques and temples, one of the most noted ones being the colourful Sri Veerama Kaliamman temple.
A Very Helpful Tourist Information Center
For such a big and modern city, it was very difficult for us to find internet cafes. This is the only thing we can complain about as far as being a tourist in Singapore goes. They get top marks for having one of the best and largest tourist information centers we have ever seen. I don’t think you can miss it if you are walking anywhere in the vicinity of it, the sign is giant and bright!
This was one of the first “TRUE” tourist information places we have come across on our travels in Asia. They actually gave free unbiased information on the area and were not there to try and sell you a tour or book a hotel that they get commission for.
Singapore Can Empty Your Wallet Quickly
The city is not cheap, we spent a lot more money in 6 days than we wanted to. You can find more reasonable priced food if you look around, but it is very easy to have your budget go out of control. The miles of endless shopping does not help matters.
One of the city’s main retail and entertainment hubs is Orchard Road. It has kilometers of shopping that never seems to end. There are too many other huge shopping areas and malls to list. It is one place that you could literally shop until you drop!
Botanical And Orchid Gardens
We went to the Botanical Park and Orchid Gardens. The park is free, the Orchid Gardens were a nominal price to get into. The Park reminded us a lot of Stanley Park in Vancouver and Beacon Hill Park in Victoria back home. It had lots of open green spaces. As well as a large pond, complete with Canada Geese! The orchid gardens were beautiful. We have never seen so many colourful orchids grouped together. They have to have a cool house for some varieties. It seemed so strange to us since we have to have green houses to create warmth for our plants at home.
You can get to Sentosa Island via the MRT or by cable car. We choose the cable car. The views over Singapore are spectacular, but this is not for anyone with a fear of height. This cable car has got to be one of the highest ones we have ever been on. We paid a little extra to ride in one with a clear glass bottom. It made the ride even more scary, but really let you get the full effect of the views. One really unique part of the trip is when the cable car goes right through the top of a skyscraper.
We took the cable car back to mainland Singapore as well. The return trip seemed even more terrifying as we went up the very steep grade.We spent the day at Sentosa Island. It was fairly touristy, if not a bit disneylandish, but we enjoyed ourselves anyways. We walked around looking at the various areas of the island. It is quite large, but you can get from one area to the next by free shuttle buses.
They have a water laser show each night at 8pm that is quite neat. Lasers are projected throughout the air and moving cartoon images are shown on sheets of sprayed water. For the kiddies there is a unique water park that is stretched out down a long tree lined area. There are long stretches of white sand beach. A climb to the top of the lookout tower offers views of the port.
On the island is also the southern most point of continental Asia. Since we had been to the southern most point of the African continent we thought we must go to this spot to get a picture as well.
Singapore Slings At The Raffles Hotel
No trip to Singapore would be complete without going to the famous Raffles Hotel to have a Singapore Sling. Raffles Hotel was started by Stanley Raffles, he was the founder of modern day Singapore. The building itself is stunning in its colonial style. This is the place where movie stars and celebrities used to come and sip Singapore Slings. The hotel is very expensive, we can’t even guess at what it would cost to stay here. The bar area has got beautiful wood throughout it. It is full of tourists all getting pictures having the signature drink. We ordered our drinks without question of the price. We guessed it was going to be at least $10 Canadian each. We nearly fell off our chairs when the bill came. $17 for each drink!!!! Ouch! More surprising were the tables of people we saw that had been ordering them by the bucket loads.
The area around the Raffles Hotel is full of colonial buildings that were built during the British rule. Take a stroll past the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Parliament House, the Supreme Court, City Hall, Singpore Cricket Club and St. Andrews Cathedral. Most of the buildings have been restored back to their former architectural beauty.
We are usually not that fond of big cities, but Singapore we loved. Too bad it is on the expensive side, we would have hung around a bit longer.